Douglas College Sport Science instructor reveals truth about international tennis tournament
By Katie Czenczek, News Editor
It turns out that a person’s lies will come back to haunt them. Even over one hundred years later.
Robert Lake, a professor at Douglas College, and Simon Eaves, a professor from Manchester Metropolitan University, have done what Dwight F. Davis has failed to do—tell the truth about the origins of the Davis Cup. The duo, who gave credit where it was due when publishing their findings, published a paper titled Dwight Davis and the Foundation of the Davis Cup: Just Another Doubleday Myth? that exposed Dwight F. Davis as merely a rich man who donated the cup.
In an interview with the Other Press, Robert Lake said what was more heinous was that Davis also took sole credit for the cup.
“There were a number of different men who were working in this area to generate a competition between Britain and America long before Dwight Davis was around,” he said. “Not only did he not come up with the idea, but probably stole the idea from a bunch of people who were talking about it.”
Of these men, James Dwight, was particularly invested in the tournament. With the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (USNLTA), James Dwight had previously pitched to the Lawn Tennis Association to form an international tournament between Britain and the United States. The British league rejected his bid. He even sent American tennis players to the UK to foster relations between the two nations and developed the structure and format for the tournament.
“The British were considered by far as the leading tennis nation,” Lake said. “They considered themselves so good that they didn’t even need to compete with other nations—almost like this God-ordained superiority in the sport.”
According to popular tennis legend, Dwight F. Davis came up with the idea for an international tournament after a trip to the West Coast, where he played the sport with a couple of friends when the idea suddenly struck him.
Through Lake and Eaves’ research, they found this creation myth to be a fraud, similar to many other sports legends.
“It just didn’t add up,” Lake said. “It’s obviously a myth that Dwight Davis came up with the idea for the Davis Cup.”
Davis, who had the financial means to back up the creation of the cup, anonymously donated the cup to the USNLTA. Prior to his donation, Davis was elected to join the same association as a board member through a loophole. On a committee with only four others, Davis voted to accept his own anonymous donation. The morning after the board voted to accept the cup, it was revealed in the papers that Davis was the very person who donated the cup in the first place.
“If the USNLTA were to have a poster boy for this tournament, he was the perfect frontman,” Lake said. “No one else could compete with his connections.”
Davis retold the story to newspapers when given the opportunity. Not only did he play up the myth, but the original crew who came up with the idea either passed away, were imprisoned, or had been put into a mental asylum by 1931, allowing Davis to make these claims uncontested.
Lake said that his and Eaves’ intention was not to harm to the Davis Cup’s reputation but rather to finally give credit where it was due.
“There’s no motivation for me to try to discredit the Davis Cup. I don’t have anything against the Davis Cup,” Lake said. “Our motivation was simply to tell the truth.”
That being said, the Davis Cup perpetuates the false story of Dwight F. Davis as the sole founder of the tournament to this day.